I just updated my running pilgrimage with the running and biking I did in November, and I’m almost to the Tutoburg Forest, which puts me close to my goal of exploring the ancient Roman Empire. I’ll keep you posted, but apparently not very often.
Making a fantasy pilgrimage has been a… well, a fantasy of mine for a while. I’ve been saving my workout data on my phone since August, and now seems like an appropriate time to make my first entry.
From August through October, I’ve traced 329.5 km. I guess that’s not bad? I’m content with my level of activity, that’s for sure.
Tracked out on a map, that’s enough to get my to Berlin, Potsday, and then almost to Halberstadt, if I had been running and biking entirely in a straight line and didn’t stop to see anything in any of those places.
Just seeing it on a map is impressive to me.
With time, I’ll try and do some virtual sightseeing around the route and share here what I’ve seen.
It’s been hot here. Really, really hot.
I’m not complaining — I’ll take heat over cold any day — but it’s been the kind of weather that makes all movement a sweat-soaked enterprise.
But, I ran. I’m a runner, and runners run. (In addition to me prioritizing exercise as a superpower.) But I didn’t run fast.
The Wednesday speedwork was just a slow run with burpees in the shade. Friday’s mid-distance run was just a simple 5k with more burpees.
But, I ran.
I’m a big believer that the perfect is the enemy of the good. And, as an extrapolation of that, the slow run you take is better than the speedwork you skip.
After writing about how surprisingly motivational the Google Fit weekly running goals are for me, I thought it’d be nice to post an update:
It took quite a bit of work and more than once I caught myself saying “if I don’t get a run in, I’ll have to wait a long time to push an incomplete week out the other side.” (If that phrasing makes any sense.)
The result was me having more back-to-back runs in the week: generally one 5k and a 7k, and a long run on the weekend. Maybe it’s not the structured approach to running I’d been hoping for, but it’s running.
I think a lot about the song “Glory Days” and of the danger of becoming a person who lives in the past. (‘A lot’ in this context means at least half a dozen times in my life.) The thing is, I used to run pretty regularly and it’s weird for me to struggle to get something done that used to be so fundamental to me.
I can rationalize that my kids are getting bigger, that I’m doing more with them, that I didn’t use to try and code a website in the same off-time that used to be just for reading and running. Nonetheless, it’s important to me that I continue to be the kind of person that I want to be, rather than assuming that having once run a marathon means I get to claim “runner” status forever.
Yesterday, I did something that I’ve been talking (to myself) about doing for a while: I added exercises to my run. Six times in my usual 7km run, I stopped and did 5 burpees.
I don’t know why I picked them over any other exercise, except that they have the reputation of being super hard, and I was ready to have my butt kicked. Even more, I was ready to push myself into being seen being different. And they’re certainly different.
How was it?
First, let me say that I might have forgotten about them, except that I certainly feel the workout still. And I kinda like that.
Next, in addition to the fact that, although I felt self-conscious for the last set, my shyness decreased with each set, I’d like to say that I really enjoyed getting my hands dirty. It’s a funny thing to say, but for such a (self-perceived) nature-loving, Earth embracing hippy, I don’t get dirty very often. And, doing the burpees, I had to… and I liked it.
The last thing I wanted to mention as I reflect on them is that it was a fun change to start seeing the run as the ‘recovery’ part of the workout. I mean, after just five of them, I was so out of breath that I was glad to be running again. And that’s not how I usually thing about running.
When will I do them again?
My new short-term goal is to add a fourth, short run to my running week and to try and get the thirty burpees in just four sets…
If I do or don’t, I have to say that I’m feeling more active now, and I’m enjoying that level of activity.
So, I don’t feel especially pushed to evaluate how my December training plan went, as I didn’t really make a detailed plan.
I was right that December is a hard time to focus on fitness and came away with these takeaways:
- Trying for three runs per week was a good idea. I wound up very willing to compromise on the nature or quality of the run (shorter than planned? the day after a run day? No problem) and managed to get at least two runs in each week. Some, I even got in three including a few thirteen-kilometer runs.
- There’s not really a point in hiding your fitness routine. I tend to hide the fact that I exercise. Nobody likes the fitness guy, right? So, I’ll talk about it only generally. And, during the first part of our hosting family, I didn’t get any exercise at all in (except some walking as we showed off the city). Then, after telling them that I do planks and that it helps with my back pain, it became easier to exercise in front of them.
- I want to focus on abilities. It sounds weird, but nobody cares about reps. I say this because I can do a grand total of zero pull-ups. And, I could make a list of progressive goals for pull-ups, but that’s not what I get excited about. Instead, I’m still working on pull-ups, partly to do any (an ability) and as a stepping-stone towards tree-climbing and, possibly, bouldering.
The January Plan
Here’s what I’m looking at as I think about January:
First, I’ll be taking my son and a friend to a trampoline hall that has ‘ninja obstacle courses’ (I guess similar to American Ninja Warrior) and I look forward to measuring myself on those. (Also, to possibly turning two boys into workout partners.) She doesn’t know it yet, but because she’s feeling left out, my daughter will probably be taken bouldering with me this month as well. Another test of my general fitness.
To that end, here are the routines I’d like to have:
- Running three times a week. Again, I’ll settle for the regularity now, and focus on the quality of the runs later.
- Continuing the planks. I don’t get them done every day, but I think I can say I get them done two-thirds of the time and that they really help my back, as well as my overall feeling of strength.
- More upper-body stuff. I have a sort of informal pull-up workout in my to-do list, and I get them done most of the time. To be honest, I’ve toyed with the idea of adding burpees to my run, partly for the workout and partly to force myself to accept looking weird in front of other people. Can’t hurt, can it?
Lastly, I think it’s good to have a goal to work towards, so there will be a 5k run for time at the end of the month.
So, November was the first month I really wanted to stick to a written training plan. Ultimately, that training plan, while not very ambitious, was something of a stretch goal. I didn’t get it done but did do more than I would have without it.
I’m counting the fact that I still try to get my plank workout in each day as a success. It doesn’t always happen (happened early today, I’ve learned that I’m more disciplined in the morning) but it happens more often than not. And, as an extra plus, my back, shoulder and arm pain is much improved, if not yet eliminated.
My foot hurts less severely and less often. I’m chalking that up to the foot exercises and will continue them.
The realization that running form matters. While out on what should have been a hard run, I decided to focus more on form than intensity, because my food had been acting up. I was surprised that it was just as effective — as measured by speed — as focusing on intensity would have been, but not quite as mentally draining. (Focusing on actually doing something seems easier than just trying to push myself.)
For a variety of lame reasons, I only hit my three-times-a-week goal twice in November. And, that was evident in the fact that I slowed down for the first time ever in my monthly 5k for time. It was 28:38 this month, as opposed to 24:37 in October.
It’s ridiculous to think I’ll get a lot of exercise in in December. December is the month that I spend the rest of the year trying to work off. Still, the experiment was good enough that my next step will be making a plan for December. At least, for the time up to the holidays.
A while ago, Google Fit introduced the possibility of adding weekly goals in Google Fit. Of course, I didn’t use them.
After all, I liked Google Fit as a pedometer and activity tracker. I was too busy to count my steps or time my activity throughout the day, but I wasn’t too busy to know how often I’d been jogging that week. The idea seemed stupid to me.
Then, recently, while playing absent-mindedly in the Google Fit menus, I set up my “run three times a week” goal.
And, I’ve grown to like it. I feel a pressure to get that purple line all the way around the circle, and really want to avoid having to see an incomplete-goal icon for the next weeks. It’s genuinely a motivation.
I like to think I embrace motivation
I teach a lot of middle-aged Germans who grew up in communist East Germany and who feel baffled by anything that smacks of ‘gamification.’ After all, they didn’t need points and badges to get things done back then, why should they need them now?
These are the same people who think that Carnival (or Halloween) is stupid because they don’t need to be forced to have fun. (But go ahead and ask them when they last put on a costume…) Or that Valentine’s Day is a joke imported from the west and they can be romantic anytime. (But then, ask them when they last bought roses…)
My point is, there are people who think they are strong enough to not need tricks. But, in most cases, they’re the ones who are also mostly satisfied with their current level of… whatever. They might say “I should run more” or “I need to take more time for my wife,” but the inevitably say it in a tone of voice that makes clear they have accepted it will not happen.
On the other hand, I like to think that I embrace motivation. I have a sense of who I am and who I could be, and a clear understanding of how big the difference between those two people is. And, though the person I want to be (a third person altogether) might have the willpower to not need motivational tricks, the person who I could be certainly embraces them.
TL;DR: The Google Fit weekly runs tracking is more motivational than I thought, and I’m frustrated that I didn’t realize that I was dismissing something I would like to embrace.
So, here’s a thing I’ve been doing: I’ve been running 5k for time as my weekly hard run for the last several months. And the times have been improving. As in, I’m running at speeds I’d never run at before. (I’d do so much better at the APFT than I did back when I had to do it!)
Check out the October run time:
The November plan:
For core fitness, I’m starting simply by trying to expand my current plank-a-day workout to a 5m plank workout every day. I discovered that in this lifehack article (fun fact: all the photos are of women in revealing workout clothes… but when it comes time to teach you something, of course, there’s a man in the video)
Because I have had foot pain, I thought another good place to start was by resolving to do three of these activities each day (I might revise that down to two).
Lastly, as I’ve had a ‘function’ for my Tuesday runs (traditionally, they’ve been my hard runs — see this month’s planned hard runs below) I’ve decided to make Thursday my ‘goofy’ run, which is to say, I’m going to try and run while stopping intermittently to do other exercises. (Like this one, which I don’t think I could do in good conscience in my apartment.)
Here are the four Tuesday hard runs I have planned.
- Intervals: Max interval at 23:00 5k pace (4:36/km)
- Mile repeats: Pace 4:36/km
- Intervals: Max interval at 22:00 5k pace (4:24/km)
- November 5k for time
I’ve really only resolved to try this monthly training plan thing this and next month. And this month is really mostly about experimenting with habit-forming. We’ll see how it goes.
I identify strongly with running. Sometimes, I love the act of running itself: getting out and feeling the joy of confidence in my own strength. Moving through the woods, breathing in the air, being a part of what is around me.
Running, I’ve come across deer and foxes and felt tied into their ‘more natural’ world.
I’ve found myself up to my ankles in mud as I tried to make some paths of my own, and felt the thrill of persevering when I knew that the ‘old Toby’ would have rather quit and gone home.
I wasn’t born a runner. I was born a quiet bookworm, and I like that guy, too. But, somehow, I got it into my head that I could become a runner, and I did. Running is one of the few areas in my life where I decided who I was before I became that guy. It was an act by which I defined myself, instead of letting genes and happenstance define me.
And then I hurt my foot.
The esteemed doctors wife and Google consulted and decided that I had an inflamed tendon in my foot. Not super painful, but enough that I wanted to get off my feet. (It didn’t help that I tried to run through it the first several weeks, before consulting the aforementioned doctors.)
The doctors prescribed, among other things, rest. Of course, I can still go to work, but running has been out of the question.
Now, I’m wondering how I ever found time in my day to run as much as I did. The blocks of time that had been reserved for running have been absorbed by. . . well, nothing. The day-to-day drag from which I slowly and carefully carved blocks of time set aside for me and my running shoes absorbed that time again before I even realized it.
I stopped listening to Geeks in Running Shoes, because it seemed to be a podcast about how they weren’t training. Who wanted to hear that? Now, I’ve become someone who wants to think of himself as a runner, but doesn’t.
Who am I, then?